Its already the last day of the year, you want to improve your life, but the majority of people drop their resolutions within the first month. What can we do to make sure the "new us" sticks for the full year? There are a lot of tactics floating around the internet from productivity hacks to living intentionally, but it's our job to do. Now is the time to drop the research and hit the ground running with full enthusiasm.
Habits are ingrained in our day today. They are habits because we do them every single day without much thought. Forming new habits will make achieving our new year resolutions much easier in the long run. This is because our brains use habits to save brain power for more important tasks throughout the day. Most of our habits we developed without us consciously knowing; this is especially true for all the bad habits in our life.
I'd be surprised if anyone wanted to form a bad habit.
The biggest problem with habits is how delicate they are even though they are mighty and can change our lives. To destroy a good habit takes merely a bit of slacking off and next thing we know we are on a slippery slope.
The holidays do this to me. Every year around the last two weeks of December my wife and I end up with a ton of sugary foods, high card meals with family, and weekday wine. All of which I avoid like the plague the other eleven and a half months of the year.
Now that a new year is here its time to break morph this new habit of terrible consumption back into a strict regimen of healthy eating. For me, that means lots of protein, enough fat, and minimal carbs (not counting fiber filled veggies).
To make this shift from a bad habit to a good habit we need to use the old cue, being hungry, and only allow the body to eat or drink that which is healthy. Since the cue is the body in hunger, the routine is the actual act of eating. To make sure we only eat foods that are healthy we need to make sure all the sugar-filled foods, bread, pasta, etc. are tossed out.
Shaping our environment to aid us is a big help in creating new habits.
To finish off the habit shift we need a reward. In this example, the pleasure of eating good tasting food and not feeling bloated is the reward. For other habit shifts, we will need to find a reward that is going to keep us on the right track. Going for a run and then rewarding ourselves with a doughnut is entirely counterproductive.
For more information on hacking your habits read The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
Goals are set this time of year to give us something to aim towards. This is well and good, but too often these goals are lofty and too hard to reach. Instead, let's do something different.
First, define a goal. Let's use "do 120 pushups in one set." This is an ok goal, but it is missing a few key points to make it attainable. What we need is a time frame to hit our target on or before. By adding "by December 31st" will give us that time-frame and now we can work backward.
If our goal is "do 120 pushups in one set by December 31st" we can chop this up into smaller goals both by time and by achievement. Assuming the year is not a leap year there will be 365 days to hit the target. That means we need to add about 0.33 pushups each day to our set.
Or to make it easier we need to add ten pushups each month.
Seeing this "chunked out" sub-goal makes the end goal seem much more attainable. Instead of seeing the large 120 we see ten for the first month. If the first step of dividing out a goal still looks like it will be too much just do it again. In this example, we only need to add about 2.3 pushups to our set each week.
What to remember about goal setting:
- Be overly specific
- Set a time-frame
- Cut up the goal into sub-goals
- Make it measurable
We can also ask ourselves the following questions:
- What is our stretch goal?
- What is a specific sub-goal needed to reach the stretch goal?
- Is this sub-goal realistic?
- Is this sub-goal achievable in the time required to complete?
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